Sunday, 19 May 2024

Elon Musk can now put his brain chips in people

Billionaire Elon Musk’s brain chip company Neuralink has finally been approved for testing on humans.

On Thursday, Neuralink said that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had given the green light to its first-in-human clinical trial, a critical milestone after earlier struggles to gain approval.

The FDA nod ‘represents an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people’ Neuralink said in a tweet.

It did not elaborate on the aims of the study, saying only that it was not recruiting yet. So, if you’re keen to have a computer chip in your brain, you’ll have to wait.

Musk envisions brain implants could cure a range of conditions, including obesity, autism, depression and schizophrenia, as well as enabling web browsing and telepathy.

He made headlines late last year when he said that he was so confident in the devices’ safety that he would be willing to implant them in his children.

However, the FDA did not share Musk’s confidence, rejecting Neuralink’s applications to begin human trials, citing major safety concerns about the device’s lithium battery.

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The regulator was worried about the potential for the implant’s tiny wires to migrate to other areas of the brain and questioned whether and how the device could be removed without damaging brain tissue, according to employees.

The pace of the company’s research has also cost the lives of animals, bringing the company under scrutiny for potential animal-welfare violations.

Internal staff have complained that the company was rushing animal testing, causing needless suffering and deaths, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

Since 2018, the company has roughly killed about 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys, according to Reuters.

The Department of Transportation is also separately probing whether Neuralink illegally transported dangerous germs from monkey brains without proper containment measures.

Neuralink’s competitor, Synchron, has already implanted a brain chip in a patient in the United States for the first time. It received US regulatory clearance for human trials in 2021 and has completed studies on four people in Australia.

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